Coming this Sunday May 17th, our beloved local bellydance school Dragonflywill be hosting From Quarantine with Love. I am excited to be a part of this show as someone who studies with Zahira and has had the pleasure of teaching a bit at the old Dragonfly headquarters. It was just around this time last year that I was invited to teach Flapper Fusion Performance series toward the Spring Showcase.
There is nothing like a pandemic to remind us of the communal nature of dance. While I always enjoy practicing alone, these past 6 weeks have felt so different. Usually my solo practice happens in addition to classes, studio time, collaborations and shows. Without those components, solo practice just feels… different. I’m reminded how dependent and invigorated I am with other bodies to dance with.
That being said, there are some absolutely fantastic online classes happening right now and while I am not that much less busy these pandemic days, I have had some time to take classes with locals Zahira, and Melissa Gamal, and the much further than local fusion inspiration Mardi Love.
I’ve also delighted in the amazingly diverse lineup of dancers in Kami Liddle’s Lockdown Dance Party
I’ll do up another post on some of the offerings from the bellydance community both locally and internationally, but for now lets talk about this show on Sunday: From Quarantine with Love has a killer lineup of Dragonfly faculty, local guest teachers and international stars Aziza and Oscar Flores. I’m looking forward to being a part of this show and I can say this is my first remote pandemic performance! In the spirit of uncertainty and vulnerability of the times, I decided to throw caution to the wind and dance for you all freestyle/improv. Its a sassy upbeat number and as I turned my dining room into my stage (thanks to my wonderful partner for helping with camera stuff then staying well out of my way while I practiced!), I couldn’t help but feel the intimacy of inviting the audience into my home space to watch me dance.
Won’t you be my guest this Sunday? Would love to see you there!
This Saturday, the Flapper Bellydance Fusion performance series started at Dragonfly Bellydance. The studio filled with flappers ready for action, I could feel the enthusiasm and focus of the group. I love connecting with other vintage dance lovers and am super looking forward to sharing this fusion choreography with this bunch. Oh there will be more reminders but for now just save the date: Sunday May 26th is the Dragonfly Spring Showcase where the flappers will be taking the stage alongside many other fabulous dancers from the studio. This event usually sells out, so get your tickets in advance. You’ve been warned.
The end of 2017, brought the passing of a pioneer of tribal fusion bellydance long before the term was coined –the one and only Jamila Salimour. There is a lot to say about Jamila and how she shaped American style, interpretation and presentation of bellydance over the past several decades in America.
In learning of her death, my mind jumped to the one and only time in 2009, that I had an opportunity to learn from her at the Salimpour School in Oakland. It was an adjunct workshop to the annual San Fransisco Mecca Immersion, a tribal fusion intensive in San Fransisco, taught by both Jamila and Suhaila Salimpour. It was a zyll workshop and she played her giant saucer-sized zylls effortlessly, leading us through complex patterns. I had been playing zylls a couple of years and enjoyed the challenge, savoured the experience knowing I had a hell of a lot more work to do to feel comfortable with this instrument.
I became interested in tribal fusion bellydance around 2008 after dancing for a few years learning Arabic as well as cabaret styles from my teachers. While learning from Roula Said (the Salimpours were among her teachers in her travels to San Fransisco) at Om Laila for a few years, I had joined the student troupe under the direction of Megan Shields. Here I was exposed me to what she used to refer to as ‘tribalesque’ –the elements of ATS/ITS and tribal fusion that she brought into a more classical bellydance foundation. Once I discovered some more about this style of dance as well as what it means to fuse dance styles, I started to get more curious about its origins. That led me to a study trip to my first SF Mecca Immersion in 2008, where I learned that tribal fusion is a branch off of American Tribal Style group improv, the codified group dance created by Caroleena Nericcio-Bolhman of Fat Chance Bellydance. I stumbled my way through her workshop, trying to wrap my head around the cueing system, but noticing all of the common ground of vocabulary that shaped tribal fusion: elements of bellydance, flamenco and classical Indian dances. The raised strong arms, floreos, rhythmic isolations and fluid hips swaying to music from traditional to electronic. I was in love and fell hard. I went back for more in 2009, this time for the extended intermediate track of SF Mecca Immersion.
Its coming up on ten years since I first set foot in San Fransisco to explore dance roots. Some of that journey has been shared through this blog. I am fortunate to have teachers in Toronto who have learned and continue to learn from the pioneers of ATS/ITS and tribal fusion. I have now been in Serpentina North Ensemble for six years and have none other than the green haired forever goth, Orkideh to thank for the opportunity to delve so much deeper into group improv as well as fusion bellydance. Workshops, intensives, and performance has been a large focus of mine over the past decade I suppose. And we all live in the legacy of our teachers and our teachers’ teachers. So whether or not you got a chance to directly learn from Jamila Salimpour, she is an iconic figure who created the foundation of what we know as tribal fusion.
To other dancers, I love to hear about peoples influences! Please feel free to share in comments, your experiences learning directly or indirectly from the work of Jamila Salimour.